Notre Dame is on its way to Wintrust Arena for the Sweet 16.
The Irish (32-3) earned a spot in the Sweet 16 for the 10th consecutive season. The defending national champions will play No. 4 Texas A&M (26-7) in a Chicago Region semifinal at 3 p.m. Saturday at Wintrust Arena. No. 11 Missouri State (25-9) plays No. 2 Stanford (30-4) in the second semifinal.
Notre Dame averaged 95 points in the ACC Tournament. The scoring outputs have been just as impressive in the NCAA Tournament.
The Irish crushed No. 16 Bethune-Cookman 92-50 on Saturday in the first round and exceeded 90 points again Monday.
Here are three takeaways from the two NCAA Tournament victories.
1. Jackie Young is on a roll.
Young was named the ACC Tournament MVP after finishing with 21 points and 10 rebounds in the championship game win against Louisville.
The junior guard has continued to excel in the NCAA Tournament. She had 11 points, four rebounds and four assists Saturday against Bethune-Cookman, then finished with 21 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists against the Spartans.
“Like all season, Jackie’s been amazing,” teammate Brianna Turner told reporters after the game. “If I would have made a couple more layups, she would have had a triple-double probably. She can do everything on the floor for us.”
2. A historic night for Turner.
Young wasn’t the only Notre Dame player to record a double-double Monday.
Turner had 14 points and 11 rebounds. She became the program’s all-time leader in rebounds, surpassing Ruth Riley.
“I’m just so proud of Bri,” coach Muffet McGraw said.
Turner has 1,010 career rebounds, topping Riley’s mark of 1,007.
“I didn’t even know I was close to it until the other day,” Turner said. “Ruth is such a great player. I’m excited to be in the record books with her.”
The forward, who missed all last season after suffering an ACL injury in the 2017 NCAA Tournament, has nine double-doubles this season and 30 in her career.
3. Irish lock down on defense.
While the offensive numbers jump off the page, the Irish also are getting it done defensively.
Bethune-Cookman on Saturday shot just 26.7 percent (16 of 60). And on Monday, Notre Dame limited Michigan State to 37.3 percent (25 of 67) from the floor.
“Defensively we were a lot more active,” McGraw said Monday. “We were a lot more aware of where the shooters were. We did some really smart things defensively. We were in zone. We matched up into man-to-man a couple of times on the fly and they did a really good job of being aware of everybody.”
Here’s a recap of Notre Dame’s victory Monday night in South Bend, Ind., from the Associated Press:
Coach Muffet McGraw, top-seeded Notre Dame and the home fans held their collective breath when Jackie Young lost hers during Monday’s 91-63 victory over No. 9-seeded Michigan State in a second-round NCAA Chicago Region game.
“I'm fine, just a hard foul, nothing to worry about — that’s just basketball,” said Young, who came within three assists of her third triple-double of the season, settling for 21 points and 11 rebounds to match double-doubles with Brianna Turner (14 points and 11 rebounds) for the Irish (32-3).
“I thought she might have had a concussion ... she just got the wind knocked out of her,” McGraw said after Young was fouled by Michigan State’s Tory Ozment with three seconds left in the third quarter of the runaway victory over the Spartans (21-12). Young got up, missed her first free throw, made her second and then went to the bench.
Young returned in the fourth quarter and filled out an impressive line in the box score — 7-of-14 shooting, six of her 11 rebounds on the offensive boards, seven assists, one steal, two blocks.
Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant thinks Young is the one most responsible for the late-season surge by the Irish — it was their 11th straight victory that put McGraw’s team in its 10th straight Sweet 16. They will face No. 4 seed Texas A&M on Saturday at Wintrust Arena. Notre Dame’s starters outscored Michigan State’s 79-25.
“She’s the one that wins them championships,” Merchant said of Young, a 6-foot junior who won most valuable player honors in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament. “She’s one of the most powerful, strongest girls I’ve coached against. Give Notre Dame credit. I’m not sure there is a more veteran team on the planet coming off their national championship.”
Young’s older teammates have become believers.
“If I had made a couple I missed, she would have had a triple-double; Jackie is awesome,” Turner said after becoming Notre Dame’s all-time leading rebounder at 1,010, passing All-American Ruth Riley from the 2001 NCAA champions.
Arike Ogunbowale scored 23 points to lead the Irish. Turner, Young and Shepard combined for 21 rebounds as Notre Dame had a 49-37 edge on the boards to offset a 47.9-percent shooting effort (35 of 73).
For the second straight game, Michigan State was led by Sidney Cooks, who came off the bench to score a team-high 17 points on 8-of-12 shooting and 12 rebounds. Jenna Allen had tears after closing her Michigan State career with 12 points.